“They were coming because they wished to meet with other people”

Loaves & Fishes only community meal

2001. The Community Outreach Mission for the Salvation Army Crossroads Community Church in Lower Hutt (in New Zealand) runs the only regular community meal in the city.

The loaves and fishes weekly fellowship and meal is part of the “Steppingstones” outreach to the community. Since the establishment of the Crossroads church in Lower Hutt three years ago, “Steppingstones” has provided service in budgeting, a weekly bread run for people who are experiencing difficulties in purchasing enough food for themselves and families and the Wednesday evening meal.

A new project under the “Steppingstones” banner is in the throes of development. Transitional Housing offers and individual or family short term housing along with support and encouragement as a person or family begins to get back on their feet. The outreach has an excellent relationship with Housing New Zealand and work in partnership with Work and Income NZ.

The meal is primarily aimed at low-income people and families. Most who attend are on a low income of some sort whether that be partly or fully employed or those on unemployment, sickness, invalid’s or domestic purposes benefits and superannuants. Members of Crossroad Community Church also attend to fellowship along with other people.

Methodist minister Chris Wood, Manager of Community Outreach Mission for the Salvation Army Crossroads Community Church, compiled a questionnaire, which they handed out to everyone who attended the meal and results showed that there was a clear need for fellowship. They carried out the questionnaire to see whether they were adequately catering for the needs of the attendees. Overwhelming, said Deacon Wood, they were coming because they wished to meet with other people and go to an affordable place where the cost was not going to be a barrier.

“Being on limited income isolates you from the community and limits your choices.

“Arising from the results we are gradually changing the format and are calling it the loaves and fishes café.”

People usually arrive around 5pm and finish at around 6.30-7pm.

Once a month they introduce the musical component and recently the held live entertainment with a professional musician and provided candlelit tables. They want to build upon this café style arrangement. Every Wednesday there is a meal, and a word is shared from the Bible. Where appropriate they share the Christian faith and promote the “saving love of Christ” as well as inviting participants to attend Salvation Army meetings.

The Community outreach Mission wishes to address the wholistic needs of the person.

Many families are breaking down and as a result there are single parent families. This creates loneliness and isolation. Geographically, the wider family is fragmented and there are very few places to turn to for help. Other issues that pertain to the outreach’s clients are affordable housing, adequate income, support for single parents and no extended family support.

Deacon Wood says they are apolitical in that they will work with whoever is in government but will raise issues of concern to the whole community in a non-threatening manner. Deacon Wood says they wish to actively reflect the love of God through the outreach of the gospel, and they do a lot of work in social justice.

By Peter Veugelaers.

Published 2001, Challenge Weekly.

 

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